39 Reasons Heel Strike is Bad for Running!

With all the research on heel strike vs forefoot strike running, one consistent data-trend that stands out the most is heel strike runners get injured by a significantly larger multiple than forefoot strike runners, AND when it comes to world records (WR) across all distances, non-heel strike runners have more WR’s by a greater multiple than heel strike runners.

Is Heel Strike Bad for Running?
Humans evolved to run, so your running form shouldn’t be a source of injury, but if you heel strike, impact will always be too high, no matter how thickly cushioned your running shoes are, injuries will always be in the rise.

The biggest problem with heel strike running is that an inescapable consequence of this running style is it produces more forms of impacts at a larger magnitude, intensity and duration than forefoot strike running. What’s worse is that the thicker the under-heel padding of a running shoe, the harder a heel strike runner plows their heel into the ground!

In contrast, landing with a forefoot strike during running results in a contact with the ground that is so brief that certain impact variables are not fully produced or produced at all. For instance,  the impact transient force is not produced in forefoot strike running but it is in heel strike running.

To that point, studies conducted over the past 30 years have documented a wide-range of running injuries directly related to the impact transient force as well as other impact forces produced in heel strike running. To help you get the clearest understanding about why heel strike running is the most injurious way to run,  here’s a list of the research showing how heel strike running causes injury, and how these injuries are perfectly prevented with forefoot running:

The Main Cause of Over-Pronation – Heel strike running is the only running style that causes the foot to wrestle with the ground for too long, causing the foot to shift into extreme, straining positions, which also makes your feet fatigue and injure faster. Read more here!

More Overall Forces – Landing with a heel strike during running increases vertical loading and the vertical ground reaction force, both of which are the primary cause of most major injuries, like long bone injuries. Read more here!

Chronically Painful Heels – In heel strike running, the heel lands too far ahead of the mass of the body which was found to increase the rate of sudden deceleration that also generated a collision force and a shock-wave piercing through the heel pad. Read more here!

It’s Slower! – Don’t expect to be breaking any world records any time soon if you are a heel strike runner.  Reports found heel strike running was less economical because of a large over-stride angle coupled with an unusually prolonged ground-contact time, caused the musculature of feet and legs to work harder than normal to push the upper body higher up off the ground, thereby performing more work against gravity. Read more here!

Too Damaging On the Foot – The heel-to-toe rollover phase in heel strike running is incredibly damaging to the foot because it causes dangerous rises in peak pressure impulses on the forefoot, which is a major risk factor for metatarsal stress fracture. Read more here!

Main Cause of Runners Knee – Heel strike running is notoriously known for severely damaging the knee due to the knee hyper-extension and the high burst in collisional impact that occur at heel strike, and are also known catalysts for chronic knee ligament injuries, but are completely eliminated in forefoot running. Read more here!

It Causes IT Band Pain – Heel strike running encourages crossover foot steps which causes the shin to bend too far inwards at landing. This produces more tractional and frictional forces on the IT band, while causing the IT band to compress the knee’s outer fat pad. Read more here!

Chronic Achilles Injuries – Heel striking when running prevents the Achilles tendon from contributing energy-saving elastic power, while enduring unusual high amounts of bending strain as well as collision and frictional forces. In consequence, the Achilles is at a greater risk for an impact-related injury. At the same time,  greater muscular effort and energy expenditure is needed to thrust the body forward, which is unhelpful to running economy. Read more here!

It’s Slower Pt.2 – Research uncovers 2 more reasons heel strike running will slow you down, while injuring you. Read more here!

Stiff, Sore Ankles – The ankle needs to work harder to try and stabilize the heel at heel strike, while bearing the brunt of too many negative forces at work, which a lot of ankle injuries stem from. Read more here!

Heel Striking Almost Ruined Meb Keflezighi’s Careeer – Meb ran for Nike and was a heel striker who suffered endless injury. Nike dropped him, but Skechers signed Meb

Stress Waves – Landing heel-first when running also produces a stress wave which is a by-product of the body-collision force and is associated with most running injuries.  Read more here!

Toe Injury – The push-off phase in heel strike running is incredibly straining on the toes because the little toes are used to launch the weight of the entire body forward to initiate each step, whereas this phase is eliminated in forefoot running which unburdens the toes. Read more here!

Lower Back Damage– High impacts in heel strike running ripples all the way up through the back, resulting in lower back pain. Read more here!

Shin Fracture – One reason heel striking causes shin splints is it causes the ankle to be too stiff to absorb impact, and instead, amplifies impact on the shin! Read more here! 

Higher Impact Peak Magnitudes – Landing heel-first while running prevents proper impact absorption in the lower leg. Read more here!

Body-Ground Collision Force – Landing squarely on the heel during running is equivalent to running with the brakes on whereby a collision force is created between the body and the ground at each step. Read more here!

Greater Ground Reaction Forces – An impact variable produced in large amounts in heel strike running which causes repetitive stress injury, especially on the hips. Read more here!

Knee Hyperextension –  In most cases, the knee fully unbends at heel strike which was found to be a major risk factor for runners knee and shin splints. Read more here!

Greater Posterior Compartment Pressures – Heel strike running causes lower leg compartment pressure to rise to pain-inducing levels. Read more here!

Repetitive Ankle Dorsifexion – In order to heel strike, the front of the foot lifts up. This is action is known as ‘ankle dorsiflexion’. The big problem with this is it causes compartment pressure to exceed normal in the foot/ankle complex which in turn results in tarsal tunnel syndrome. Read more here!

Higher Patellofemoral and Tibiofemoral Compressive Forces – May increase the risk of nerve injuries in heel strike runners. Read more here!

Audible Forefoot Slapping –  After the heel strikes the ground, the forefoot slaps down intensively on the ground. This forefoot-slapping causes straining contractions of the muscles in the lower leg, causing shin splints! Read more here!

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Here are all the injuries caused by heel strike running, but prevented with forefoot running:

Disc Degeneration (Lower Back Pain) – Heel striking when running literally damages your lower back by producing a compressive impact wave that causes disc degeneration. This was found to reduce disc height and therefore cause lower back pain. Read more here!

Shin Fractures – Two reasons heel strike running causes shin fracture. Read more here!

Compartmental Syndrome – Two ways landing heel-first while running dramatically increases lower leg intramuscular compartment pressure to pain-inducing levels. Read more here!

Ankle Injury – In heel strike running, there are too many negative forces at work on the foot-ankle complex which a lot of ankle injuries stem from as compared with forefoot running. Read more here!

Plantar Fasciitis – Because ankle dorsiflexion is greater in heel strike runners, they run the risk of getting plantar fasciitis. Read more here!

Heel Pad Deformation –  Landing on the heel was found to increase the rate of heel pad deformation, thereby exposing the leg to more impact at each step. Read more here!

Knee Pain – Heel strike running, especially at slow speeds, is very damaging to the knee-joint. Read more here!

Back Pain – Here are two ways heel strike running slams the back with more impact. Read more here!

Joint Degeneration – Running with a heel strike makes the knee-joint vulnerable to osteoarthritis. Read more here!

Posterior Tibialis Injury – To prevent this injury, heel striking is the last thing you want to do because it forces the foot to spend more time on the ground, which has a strongly negative effect on the posterior tibialis. Read more here!

Chronic Exertional Compartmental Syndrome – This is a form of chronic muscle soreness in the leg, and heel striking causes the condition. Read more here!

ITBS –  The foot rollover motion that occurs after the heel strikes the ground lleads to ITBS over time. Read more here!

Hip Injury – The measurable impacts produced in heel strike running increases repetitive stress on the hip. Read more here!

More Hip Injuries – The foot pronation pattern in heel strike running transfers too much rotational stress up the leg and into the hip, resulting in hip pain and tightness. Read more here!

Achilles Problems – The impact accelerations of the foot during heel strike running causes unwanted movements in the ankle joint, thereby increasing stress on the Achilles. Read more here!

Hamstring Injury – The accompanied full knee extension that often occurs at heel strike during running was found to stretch the hamstrings beyond a tolerable limit as compared with forefoot running. Read more here!

Knee Stiffness – Research revealed that runners who had suffered shin injuries in the past ran with stiffer knees. These runners were heel strikers! Read more here!

Why Runners Heel Strike in the First Place?

The reason most runners heel strike is actually due to the running shoes. That is, running shoes with thick, padded heels encourages a heel strike landing.

The good thing is, you can stop these injuries from happening with forefoot running.

Don’t know what forefoot running is? This is what a proper forefoot strike looks like. And lastly, you want to wear shoes that discourages heel strike. These shoes are minimalist running shoes and they are great at reducing mechanical stress during running by enabling a runner to maintain a forefoot strike.

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Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches


  1. I feel especially fatigued in my calf as soon as I run with forefoot strike.Therefore,is my running posture wrong or is it a normal phenomenon?

  2. Dangerous website, filled with half-truths. Loved the part about how forefoot running makes it easier on the Achilles tendon–this is the only point forefoot strike proponents/researchers actually concede (it doesn’t). Here is all you have to know about whether forefoot striking is indeed easier on your body. Look at real runners: virtually all elite 100 meter runners land on the forefoot, most elite 10k runners land on the forefoot, some elite marathoners land on the forefoot, virtually no elite short ultramarathon runners land on the forefoot, no elite multi-day runners land on the forefoot. If it caused less impact to land on the forefoot, the longer the distance, the greater the percentage of elite runners who would be doing it. The opposite is true because forefoot landing is not sustainable. Calves are meant for propulsion, not for landing. That is why Danny has fatigued calves. It is old news.

  3. ignore antonymous, obviously not a ultra runner, traditional tarahumara dont heal strike, their whole culture revolves around running. they are the best ultra runners. i like to hear you heal strike running barefoot, you obviously dont have the personal development to make the transition in western society. come join us forefoot runners… plenty of good advice where all real BFR go http://www.thebarefootrunners.org . BTW love your site bretta

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